Tiger Roll’s participation in the Grand National must be in doubt and not just because of his abysmal latest run. His trainer Gordon Elliott has since been barred from running his horses in the UK while a picture of him sitting astride a dead horse is investigated.
Tiger Roll has drifted significantly in the 2021 Grand National betting after his unimpressive performance in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan on 21 February. Sent off at 11/1 in the field of six no one expected him to win but he should have crossed the line with some purpose and been in sight of the winner.
The two more fancied Gigginstown runners Beacon Edge and Fury Road predictably finished comfortably clear of the field but Tiger Roll was completely tailed off. He looked to be travelling well enough to be offered at 11/2 in running and was moved to the outside to challenge by Keith Donoghue three out. He did not jump it particularly well and seemed to empty fairly quickly soon afterwards. Donoghue immediately accepted the situation and let Tiger Roll make his way home in his own time. Beaten over 60 lengths, he blamed the disappointing outcome on the testing ground saying Tiger Roll hated it and got tired.
Conditions were described as heavy in the same race last year when he finished fourth, beaten a mere 14 lengths. On the positive side at least he finished and travelled with conviction and enthusiasm for most of the race.
Tiger Roll sweated profusely and never looked happy when previously seen pulling up at Cheltenham in November. The vets found no abnormalities immediately after the race but he was subsequently found to be lame. His trainer Gordon Elliott does not give up easily with his stable stars and had his stifles injected which seemed to have the desired result. His work at home had reportedly been good and it could be considered encouraging that he was sent off in cheekpieces rather than blinkers.
Before the Boyne, Elliott stated openly that he was training the horse for the Grand National but that the decision on his participation would be made by his owner, the mercurial Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary and founder of Gigginstown House Stud. There was no mention of the National afterwards but the intention is to run Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham next. His price has drifted for that contest too, he is as long as 9/1 with some firms.
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for his brother, was surprised that the Boyne performance attracted so much criticism. He thought the most important thing was the horse’s enthusiasm in running. He did exercise Donoghue’s arms slightly before throwing in the towel. Tiger Roll would not be the first horse of a certain age to say ‘no thanks’ when things got tough in testing conditions, this diminutive son of Authorized is now 11. O’Leary is looking forward to seeing how he fares on what should be much better ground at Cheltenham if the weather forecast is correct.
Anyone wanting to take advantage of Tiger Roll’s more generous price in the Grand National betting might want to consider a non-runner no bet option. Michael O’Leary warned that his star Aintree performer would not run if allocated a weight that he believed was unfair. The weights have been announced and, whilst most experts believe his 11 stone 9 pound burden is reasonable, it is above the threshold originally stated as acceptable by his owner.
O’Leary’s reaction to the handicapper’s treatment has not yet reached the public domain. Waiting to see how Tiger Roll performs, assuming he lines up at Cheltenham makes sense as he has something to prove after the Boyne.
So does his trainer after a picture of him sitting astride a dead horse taking a phone call on the gallop where the gelding suffered a heart attack hit social media at the weekend. Elliott has been barred from sending his horses across the Irish Sea by the British Horseracing Authority whilst the IHRB (Irish racing authority) investigates the circumstances surrounding the image which was taken in 2019. The BHA will only allow those horses to run if they are saddled by another trainer. The O’Learys have announced that they will continue to support Elliott, who must be hoping that this potentially career-ending matter is resolved swiftly. That seems unlikely.